Champions League T20 2012 October 5, 2012

At Wanderers, action before lights and cameras

The arrival of the IPL teams will give the Champions League its customary noise and colour. For now the lesser-known teams are warming up for the main event

Johannesburg's Wanderers Stadium has a wardrobe most women would be envious of. A seasoned international host, she has worn the branding of sponsors for so long that some of them, like cigarette companies, are not even allowed to promote themselves anymore. This summer, the empress' new clothes are bright blue, pink and green and have the letters C, L, T and the numbers 2 and 0 on them. The Champions League T20 has come to town.

The 2010 edition in South Africa is remembered as a high-profile, noisy, colourful event, what Lions' batsman Neil McKenzie calls the "closest thing to international cricket." Unlike other domestic tournaments, which is essentially what the CLT20 is, the teams are bussed in by police escorts, put up in some of the city's best hotels and interact with more media than most see over the course of a quiet career.

Many of the cricketers who play in the CLT20 will have exactly that. Although they are professional sportsmen, their careers will not often be punctuated with glamour. It is they that the CLT20 should actually be about because they, more than anyone else, relish the opportunity of playing in a tournament like this.

Two teams with players like that were out practicing at the newly made up Wanderers four days before the qualifiers begin. Some casual observations of both the Lions and the Auckland Aces provided enough of a glimpse to know the tournament is important, taken seriously by domestic teams the world over and can provide opportunity if it is properly run. First, there was the intensity. Summer has arrived in full force and both held longer sessions than in over 30 degree heat and took turns using the nets and outfield.

Then, there was the camaraderie. The Lions asked Auckland if left-arm spinner Ronnie Hira wouldn't mind turning his arm over to some of their batsmen. He obliged and was soon joined by the veteran Andre Adams. Chris Martin kept a close watch.

With the IPL teams comes the bling and the superstars and in their shadow this afternoon at the Wanderers will not be remembered by anyone. If the CLT20 hopes to make gains in credibility terms, its afternoons like these which must take precedence over the gimmicks

Mark O'Donnell, who coached the Lions before they became a franchise, exchanged pleasantries with McKenzie and Lions' coach Geoffrey Toyana, who he has known for years. Some of the younger players got to know each other as Chris Morris shook hands with Colin de Grandhomme. Numbers were exchanged and plans to meet made. Cricket in its simplest form was being practiced.

There was no indication that the teams were gearing up to contest prize money of US$6 million - the winner will walk away with $ 2.3 millon - or that these men thought they were celebrities rather than people. In three weeks' time, some of them will be celebrities. Notable performances at the CLT20 have kickstarted careers - just ask Sunil Narine or Kieron Pollard - and they earned some, like Davy Jacobs, IPL contracts. A massive television audience across many countries will soon be able to recognise these players and if the preparation is anything to go by, the two teams training at the Wanderers this afternoon are ready.

Auckland have been in South Africa since September 22. Even though they could end up playing nothing more than their two qualifying matches, they have spent two weeks preparing for it. Coach Paul Strang has acquired the services of fellow Zimbabwean Heath Streak as a bowling consultant for the tournament. Streak is missing the start of his domestic season, where he will coach the Tuskers franchise, to do the job.

As a team that has participated in this competition before, Auckland do not want to repeat the mistakes of last year. There, they failed to get past the qualifiers, which included a narrow defeat to Kolkata Knight Riders followed by a heavier one against Somerset.

The Lions have also had experience of the tournament. They played in the 2010 edition in South Africa but did not make it out of the group stage and are determined to put that right this time. Being in a group with a qualifier, the Sydney Sixers, Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings will not make that task easy.

The presence of IPL teams overshadows almost everything in this tournament. Just from a numbers perspective, they skew the balance because there are four of them. The other shareholders, South Africa and Australia, only have two teams and Sri Lanka, Pakistan, New Zealand and West Indies have only one team who may not even play in the tournament proper.

The IPL teams also tend to house the bulk of the marquee players, though the IPL franchises pay $150,000 to the home team of a player who opts for them - so everyone gains in some form.

With the IPL teams comes the bling and the superstars and in their shadow this afternoon at the Wanderers will not be remembered by anyone. If the CLT20 hopes to make gains in credibility terms, its afternoons like these which must take precedence over the gimmicks.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Mr on October 8, 2012, 13:20 GMT

    I think it's similar to ICC's tournaments. Just because full nations are oldies involved in growth of cricket, they qualify for ICC tournaments directly (even though some of them are not better in play than few associates.). Similarly in CLT20 IPL gets 4 slots (which is bit too much I agree) as they have maximum investment and South Africa and Australia gets 2 each as they also are shareholders. Others play along without investing in tournament. I would also prefer 1-2 IPL teams in qualifiers and 2 teams getting direct entry instead of current 4 teams formula though.

  • Dummy4 on October 7, 2012, 5:57 GMT

    @ Kcey Charles true true it is pretty unfair for teams from sri lanka & of their own local leagues but still has to is not the thing that gentlimen's game deserves

  • Dummy4 on October 7, 2012, 2:12 GMT

    Four IPL teams are too many!!! And the 2nd, 3rd & 4th runner's up should be the teams to fight to be qualified. Robbing the game of it's integrity. It's a total rouse, shameeeeee!!!!!

  • Dummy4 on October 6, 2012, 18:48 GMT

    Non sense. what is logic behind qualifying round . it should be indian champion league only than . it taking cricket in wrong direction. STOP this kind of tournaments..........

  • shashank on October 6, 2012, 16:59 GMT

    It will be better if 2 ipl teams qualify directly and 1 team play qualifier round... and i am totaly agree with some of the comments here....4 team IPL team is completely rubbish.. :P

  • Dummy4 on October 6, 2012, 11:39 GMT

    Uva Next is the real dark horse of the tournament! And with Gayle playing for them, They are a serious contenders!

  • Sami on October 6, 2012, 8:42 GMT

    Sialkot Stallions.....the team under Shoaib Malik? They are Champions of T20 in Pakistan? Sure...Malik + Champion....OK. Lets see if they can notch a single win in the 2 games.

  • Deepak on October 6, 2012, 6:09 GMT

    @Kapil_Choudhary - Four IPL teams makes total sense. IPL is the pinnacle of domestic T20 and no other league comes anywhere close to IPL in terms of global viewing, fan-following, brand value, quality of cricket etc. IPL is just not about India, there are four overseas superstars in each team, who have massive fan-following in their respective countries. Like DD will get plenty of support from SL due to Jayawardene, KKR will get lots from NZ & BAN because of McCullum & Shakib and so on.... Its all about entertainment and good quality of cricket, but not about country vs country. So just enjoy the tournament instead of bringing on the same old debate.

  • Dummy4 on October 6, 2012, 4:42 GMT

    I dont understand this format, this league only made for indians not for other teams. top four indian teams are in tournament while sialkot stallions are the champions of pakistan but playing qualifying round? this is unjustice and icc also playing big role in this unjustice with other teams.

  • Kavin on October 6, 2012, 3:44 GMT

    I urge all the genuine cricket fans to stop watching this circus to SAVE cricket.

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